Hours after Bruce McArthur was sentenced to life in prison, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders once again defended his investigators, who have been criticized for not acting sooner on concerns from the LGBTQ community that a serial killer was responsible for the disappearances of several men from the Village.
A judge gave the 67-year-old a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, which means McArthur will be 91 when he can apply for any form of release.
McArthur pleaded guilty last week to murdering eight men from Toronto’s Village neighbourhood: Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.
The chief said officers had launched an investigation, Project Houston in November 2012, into the disappearances of McArthur’s first three victims, but simply never had enough evidence to proceed further until 2017.
“This was not a case of police didn’t think anything was going on,” Saunders said while speaking to reporters alongside Det. Hank Idsinga, Det. David Dickinson and Const. Danielle Bottineau. “We knew something stunk and we did everything we could to find it. We just didn’t.”
Project Prism was then launched in August 2017 to investigate the disappearances of Esen and Kinsman and in September 2017, officers identified McArthur as “someone to be included or excluded as being involved in the disappearance of Kinsman.”
Dickinson said that as soon as McArthur became a person of interest in August 2017, everything was done to “mitigate any risk to the public.”
He said the evidence came together on Jan. 17, 2018, and that officers acted and arrested McArthur the very next day.
Saunders was also forced to defend himself against a comment he made in December 2017, in which he said there was no evidence to suggest a serial killer was preying on men in the Village.
WATCH: Det. David Dickinson says he agrees he doesn’t believe McArthur is remorseful
He said at the time he spoke, there was only evidence that connected McArthur to one homicide — Kinsman — and not any others.
Currently, there is a probe underway into how Toronto police handle missing persons cases, including those connected to the McArthur probe.
WATCH: Chief Saunders says he does ‘not see Bruce McArthur seeing daylight’
Saunders said the life sentence handed down to McArthur means the man will never see daylight again.
“I do not see him in a public setting again,” he said. “In this case, life will mean life at the end.”
Idsinga said police are still reviewing a number of cold cases to see if they can find any links to McArthur. He said that so far, there is no evidence to suggest that McArthur killed anyone else.
WATCH: Insp. Hank Idsinga says they’re satisfied with McArthur verdict
Saunders also thanked all the family, friends and community members who provided victim-impact statements and gave insight about the lives that were lost.
— With files from The Canadian Press